Sarah Streeper ’14 Recognized for Commitment to Animal Welfare During the pandemic, she launched a helpline to support struggling pet owners.
“By having SPCA staff members collect information that is people-focused and not just about the animals coming into our care, we’re seeing more of what the challenges and barriers are that pet owners in our community are facing.”
~ Sarah Streeper ’14
Sarah Streeper ’14, who serves as director of advancement at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Wake County (North Carolina), received a “40 Under 40” award from Triangle Business Journal.
“I was on vacation during the award announcement – my boss called two times in a row so I would answer,” Streeper said, laughing. “She had the whole office cheer for me. It was wonderful.”
Her supportive team is just one of the elements Streeper appreciates about SPCA of Wake County, where she has spent the past five years working in various roles including events assistant, project and events coordinator, and grants and impact officer. In her current director position, she oversees the daily operations of SPCA Wake’s donor care team, builds case statements for fund development and provides data-driven, strategic leadership for the advancement of the organization.
While she’s worked on a myriad of initiatives during her tenure, Streeper’s most rewarding project to date is the helpline – a pandemic-born resource that was a major factor in her “40 Under 40” award nomination.
Many know about the hordes of people adopting animals during stay-at-home orders, but there was also a lesser-publicized situation: those who were worried they would be forced to surrender their animals due to pandemic-related hardships. From 2019 to 2020, the organization received a 300% increase in calls asking for help.
To handle the influx of calls that spanned a diverse set of needs, Streeper and her team developed and launched a staff-supported helpline. The helpline – which offers callers answers to animal-related questions, as well as connects them with SPCA and community programs or national resources – aims to keep pets in homes and out of shelters. It is the first of its kind in the region.
“By having staff members collect information that is people-focused and not just about the animals coming into our care, we’re seeing more of what the challenges and barriers are that pet owners in our community are facing,” she said. “That helps us become better equipped to provide targeted solutions with the mindset of how we can keep animals where they are loved already and not have to bring them into our care because of these circumstances.”
Streeper, who majored in psychology, lists professors Bob Stewart, Karla Murdock and Julie Woodzicka as major influences in her professional life, noting that it’s been “a little over eight years [since graduation], and I can still hear their advice and support in my head.”
She added that her time in the Psychology Department was instrumental in how she approaches problems at SPCA Wake.
“You can have thoughts or assumptions about what you think is happening in the world, but you need to go out and talk to people, collect data and test what you think you know before you do anything else,” she said. “It’s key to the idea behind the helpline of gathering more information about the problems that people are facing so that way we can then build solutions around them.”
After graduation, Streeper worked two part-time nonprofit jobs and volunteered at a local animal shelter. That volunteer experience is how she discovered her passion for animal welfare organizations.
In 2016, she began a master’s of public administration program at North Carolina State University and started volunteering at SPCA Wake. When Streeper needed an internship to fulfill a graduation requirement, she approached SPCA Wake about an opportunity. The nonprofit didn’t have an open position – but based on the skills and dedication she demonstrated as a volunteer, it created one for her.
For W&L students hoping to work in the nonprofit sector, Streeper’s biggest piece of advice is to start as a volunteer to get your foot in the door and see if it’s a good fit.
“Also, it proves that you will show up on time and do what’s asked of you,” she said. “It builds those network connections too, so when you try to move up the ranks, people already know about you – they already know what you’re capable of and what you’re looking to do.”
Streeper lives in North Carolina with her partner and two dogs, Callie and Leia, both adopted from SPCA Wake. For more information about the nonprofit, visit spcawake.org.
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